Womens Suffrage Essay, Research Paper
After the Civil War many male abolitionists voiced fears that the demands of women suffragists might impede the campaign to gain voting rights for male ex-slaves. The issue came to a head in 1868, when the abolitionists pressed for a constitutional amendment including all Americans regardless of race, creed, or color. Suffragists argued that the proposed amendment made no mention of women. The abolitionists answered that the suffragists should hold onto their claims rather than endanger passage of the amendment. To many suffragists, notably Stanton and Anthony, postponement was unacceptable. In May 1869 the two feminist leaders created the independent National Woman Suffrage Association, with the idea of securing enactment of a federal woman-suffrage law. Another suffragist faction, led by Lucy Stone and Henry Ward Beecher, countered in November of the same year by founding the American Woman Suffrage Association. That group worked for gradual adoption of woman suffrage on a state-by-state basis. The territory of Wyoming gave women the vote in 1869.
After the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, Anthony interpreted the law as including American women as well as male ex-slaves. She went to the polls in Rochester, New York; in 1872 and persuaded the election inspectors to let her and 12 other women register and vote. Two weeks after the election she, her 12 friends, and 3 of the election inspectors were arrested. Anthony received a ridiculously unfair trial, during which the judge repeatedly displayed antifeminist prejudices. At the height of the proceedings the judge, apparently anticipating a jury verdict in her favor, dismissed the jury and imposed on her a fine of $100. Anthony refused to pay the fine, whereupon the judge, apprehensive that she might appeal to higher courts, allowed her to go free. Her friends never were brought to trial. The election inspectors received heavy fines, which were paid by sympathetic spectators. The case aroused widespread interest, but the ban against woman suffrage remained.
In 1890 the Stanton-Anthony group merged with the Stone-Beecher faction to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. For many years thereafter the association worked to advance women’s rights on both the state and federal levels. Largely as a result of agitation by the association, suffrage was granted in the states of Colorado (1893), Utah and Idaho (1896), and Washington (1910). In addition, the association in 1910 secured 500,000 signatures for a petition urging federal woman-suffrage legislation. California granted women full suffrage in 1911; Kansas, Oregon, and Arizona followed in 1912; Nevada and Montana in 1914; New York in 1917; and Michigan, Oklahoma and South Dakota in 1918.
The American suffragist movement scored its biggest victory shortly after World War I. In 1919 Congress approved the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provided that The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment became the law of the land.